The role of the customer service team in customer engagement
We often work to reduce the amount of contact we have with customers. We try and resolve tickets in just one touch (called first contact resolution). We try and reduce the number of times that customers need to talk to a human to get help, instead leaning on intuitive products and self-service. It can seem like the goals of customer service teams are often at odds with the desire to become more engaged with our customers.
But that is not the case at all. Instead of trying to drive any engagement at all, we need to focus on driving positive customer interactions - the kinds that customers want to have and that add value to their experience.
One way of developing positive interactions with customers is by using proactive support to help customers before they run into an issue. This might be through onboarding, best practice guides, or early warnings. Because customers haven’t actually had a problem yet, these interactions are a positive experience. You get to talk with customers and they feel taken care of. This interaction boosts the customer’s perception of your support team from someone that they have to talk to, to someone that they get to talk to.
To find where you might be able to start offering proactive support, look at the customer support inquiries coming into your helpdesk. For each type, think “is there anything we could have done to prevent this customer from having this issue?” If the answer is yes - you have a new proactive support idea!
Surprise and Delight
In customer service, we want to try and balance out every negative interaction (an angry phone call, a bug report or a frustrated email) with a positive one. But finding opportunities to create a genuine positive moment can be difficult when we’re focused on resolving issues. This is where a surprise and delight strategy can come into play.
Surprises are more effective than expected bonuses or gifts. For example, if a customer submitted a customer service ticket and after it was resolved they received a note from the customer service agent thanking them, they’d be happy. But if a customer receives a handwritten note for no reason at all, simply thanking them for being a customer - that means a lot more.
Sometimes, customer engagement won’t start off feeling positive. A customer reaches out to you asking for a new feature or complaining about how your product functions. But customer feedback - the opinions your customers choose to share with you - is actually a sign of high customer engagement.
Only customers that truly care about your company (and its value to them) will take the time to submit customer feedback. The unengaged customers are the ones that stay silent - even when they aren’t happy.
To encourage more customers to submit feedback, make it clear how important it is to your team to hear what your customers think. Offer a number of places and channels for your customers to contact you with feedback. Whether it’s an opportunity for in-app feedback, proactive chat on your website, or just an easily accessible email - offering customers a quick way to let you know what’s on their mind will drive customer engagement with your customer service team.
But customer feedback only really becomes a positive customer interaction when customers feel like they are being heard. That means responding to the customer, thanking them for taking the time to write in, and then doing something with their opinions.
If you aren’t going to incorporate their feedback - that’s fine. But make it a positive experience nevertheless by taking the time to explain your reasoning and perhaps offering another alternative for them. Encourage them to get in touch again, and let them know how much you appreciate them spending the time to share their thoughts.
If you do decide to use their feedback to make changes in the product, be sure to close the loop and let customers know when their ideas have been incorporated, or if their thoughts have lead to changes. There’s nothing more gratifying for a customer than seeing their ideas actually being put into practice. That kind of interaction will lead to a loyal customer for life.
Sometimes customers want to talk about your company with people who aren’t affiliated with your brand. Facilitating a customer community where power users can assist newer customers with best practices and share insights from your industry is a great way to power customer engagement.
You can support an existing customer community by sponsoring meetups or hopping into general forums on Reddit or into Twitter conversations. These customers are already engaged enough with your community that they’ve started their own forum to discuss.
If a place doesn’t already exist for customers to discuss best practices, you can create a customer community forum and recruit users to start the discussion. Starting a community from scratch takes time, consistency and dedication. When you start, it might seem very quiet and you might even need to encourage customers to start joining in the conversations with giveaways and rewards. But if you stick with it, you’ll see a core group of engaged customers take charge and make the community their own.
Providing great customer service
Perhaps most importantly, the customer service team’s role in customer engagement is to keep the door open for customers to connect. If a customer receives terrible service, they aren’t likely to want to engage further with a brand. However, if the experience when contacting support is always pleasant, it’s much more likely that the customer will want to continue working with your brand.